at the floodgates

By Diogenes ( articles ) | May 04, 2006

Here's how the argument shapes up:

Side A (the "Progressives") argues that the Church must allow the use of condoms by married couples if one is infected with the HIV virus. It's a matter of life and death, they say.

Side B (the "Conservatives") argues that the use of condoms destroys the integrity of the marital act, and since a couple could guard against AIDS by abstention, there's no need to violate the natural law.

Side A, now exasperated, counters by saying that for pete's sake, we aren't talking about contraception. The couple would be using the condom not to prevent conception, but to prevent disease: to save a life. We're not asking the Church to change the ban on contraceptives; we asking only for consideration of these very special circumstances.

That line of argumentation took a hit yesterday, when approximately 145 newspapers in the US alone carried stories with a headline like this:

Vatican Re-Examines Contraception Ban

Ooops! No mention of "special circumstances" there. No mention of AIDS, even. We now know exactly how the mass media would play a Vatican concession on condoms from HIV-prone married couples: it would be interpreted as an acceptance of condom use-- perhaps only in "special circumstances," but doesn't every amorous young man hope there will be some "special circumstances" tonight?

But wait. I only quoted the headline. In the text of the AP story there was some discussion of the moral issues-- of double effect and lesser evils and all that. Then a Jesuit moralist, Father James Keenan, put things back into the sort of terms anyone can understand. If the Vatican allows condom use in this one special case, he said:

It would finally take the stigma off the condom. Then it's all over. The condom will be freed of this whole, heavy moral debate.

And Yes, in case you were wondering, this is the same Father James Keenan who testified in favor of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, and who still instructs impressionable young students in moral theology at Boston College.

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